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Anti-racist interventions to transform ecology, evolution and conservation biology departments

Abstract

Racial and ethnic discrimination persist in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, including ecology, evolution and conservation biology (EECB) and related disciplines. Marginalization and oppression as a result of institutional and structural racism continue to create barriers to inclusion for Black people, Indigenous people and people of colour (BIPOC), and remnants of historic racist policies and pseudoscientific theories continue to plague these fields. Many academic EECB departments seek concrete ways to improve the climate and implement anti-racist policies in their teaching, training and research activities. We present a toolkit of evidence-based interventions for academic EECB departments to foster anti-racism in three areas: in the classroom; within research laboratories; and department wide. To spark restorative discussion and action in these areas, we summarize EECB’s racist and ethnocentric histories, as well as current systemic problems that marginalize non-white groups. Finally, we present ways that EECB departments can collectively address shortcomings in equity and inclusion by implementing anti-racism, and provide a positive model for other departments and disciplines.

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Fig. 1: Representation of BIPOC among students in EECB, other life science fields and non-life science STEM fields in the United States.
Fig. 2: Fostering anti-racism through changes and actions at different scales, including curricula, laboratories and departments, will result in many benefits in EECB.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge and thank T. M. L. Scholz, P. DeSalles, M. Carr and J. Straub for their review and insight into this work.

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M.R.C., S.H.A., S.K.A., D.N.B., R.S.B., A.L.B., A.B.F., R.G., L.C.G., N.H., J.G.H., E.A.H., M.C.K., R.M., L.M.-E., R.S.M., I.M.P., K.R., M.B.R., S.B.S., T.-A.M.T.-N., K.M.V., E.W.-N., B.V., A.M.V.-T. and E.S.Z. contributed to writing, editing and reviewing the paper. M.C. and E.S.Z. conceived of the idea for the paper. M.C. led the writing. M.C.K. produced Fig. 1 and conceptualized Fig. 2. E.W.-N. and R.S.B. contributed to the content and design of Tables 1 and 2. R.G., T.-A.M.T.-N., J.G.H., A.B.F. and A.M.V.-T. contributed to conceptualizing, writing and editing Box 2, Supplementary Data 1 and Supplementary Table 1.

Positionality statement The authors of this paper are all members of an academic department located on unceded and colonized land of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. This institution was originally funded by the expropriation of 150,000 acres of land from Indigenous peoples. The authors’ perspectives reflect their race, gender, class, access, ethnicity, religion, ability/disability and status as members of a higher education institution in the United States. This paper cannot therefore offer a complete or global understanding of the problem of racial inequity and discrimination in STEM, but it is hoped that it will contribute the authors’ perspectives to an ongoing struggle for racial justice in academia.

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Correspondence to Melissa R. Cronin.

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Peer review information Nature Ecology & Evolution thanks Melanie Culver, Danielle Lee and Zoe Todd for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods, Fig. 1 and Table 1.

Supplementary Data 1

Anti-racism checklist for EECB departments. This checklist is intended to be a starting point for students, principal investigators, faculty members and academic administrators when implementing anti-racist pedagogy and practices in EECB departments.

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Cronin, M.R., Alonzo, S.H., Adamczak, S.K. et al. Anti-racist interventions to transform ecology, evolution and conservation biology departments. Nat Ecol Evol 5, 1213–1223 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-021-01522-z

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